There is a place in the Sant Antoni market where the tables are so close to the fish counters that you can see your reflection in their glossy eyes. It’s called Casa Blanca though their branding is incoherent to the point that I rely on describing the place rather than naming it.
Casa Blanca is the epitome of ‘cocina de mercado‘: market cooking. Though they don’t advertise it as such, they simply state, “menjar i beure‘: eat and drink.
The menu is a comprehensive edible tour around the market. Stalwart local classics like salt cod, tender knobbled chickpeas, squidgy tripe. Dishes whose primary palette is a rich brown from long stewing and many onions. Things like chicken with prunes or fava beans with blue gilled mushrooms. I order fried sardines, a fish I love to eat but avoid preparing at home. A selection of fried croquetas. In the summers, a salad that relies on tomatoes. The proximity of the fish stalls makes for a lot of seafood platters. Indeed it seems to be one of the more popular orders amongst the locals.
Casa Blaca is not a place of frills and overreaching. The well-equipped kitchen is visible through a glass wall. The dining area is crowded with tables. The seats are so tight that I’ve often knocked my chair into that of the person behind me. The wall of Casa Blanca is affixed with too many paintings to count. The kitchen staff wear bright white hats. A giant flat screen tv has the orders listed as the kitchen sees them. They appear and then disappear quickly as orders are expedited.
The size of the kitchen hints that they are in the catering business as well. A suspicion that is confirmed after some dedicated snooping. An adjacent company Larregola Obrador focuses on baked goods and patisserie, which means both breakfast and the dessert trolly are worth trying.
Though it took nine years and about eighty million euros to refurbish the Sant Antoni Market, the extraordinary beauty of the outside, embellished with tiles and dark red wrought iron, doesn’t carry on to the inside. The food aisles are pushed into the middle of the building, and their narrowness means it doesn’t take much for them to get clogged with people. I prefer other markets, but when I do find myself at this market, Casa Blanca is the restaurant I like to eat at.